Ten years ago Houston's theater crowd -- at least those who look forward to seeing Phantom of the Opera every other year -- was all agog at the World Premiere of Jekyll & Hyde, a musical that was inevitably described as "Broadway-bound," a musical that was opening Right Here in Houston!
It took a long time (seven years) for J&H to make it to Broadway, and while it has proved popular with crowds, the production, composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Leslie Bricusse have typically received critical scorn.
In that first flush of Real Live World Premiere excitement, though, Houston Chronicle theater critic Everett Evans waxed euphoric. When the latest touring version of the show came through town April 27, he was a little less euphoric. That's his right, of course, but what was interesting was the way he rewrote history. Although the show no doubt went through many changes on its way to Broadway, Evans gives no indication that it was the alterations that made the show suffer. No, he apparently always hated it, and old clips be damned:
1. The overview:
a) 1990, World Preeee-miere Time: "Jekyll & Hyde has a split personality, striving to be both Sweeney Todd and American Top 40. With an exciting burst of talent, the two seemingly irreconcilable goals merge amazingly well in the ambitious new musical."
b) 2000: "It's basically the same show as ever, with the same glaring weaknesses and occasional strengths."
2. The score:
a) 1990: "Jekyll & Hyde exists primarily as a showcase for the score. Fortunately, most of it is excellent.Wildhorn [is] a major talent with a versatile range and a flair for an ear-catching tune."
b) 2000: "Frank Wildhorn's score casts it all in hyperventilating, pop-opera mode. Hearing the music again, one realizes how much of it is drab filler, as in the repetitious ensemble numbers and droning recitatives of Jekyll arguing with colleagues or detailing his experiments."
3. The lyrics:
a) 1990: "Bricusse's lyrics are neatly tailored, gracefully rhymed (especially 'A New Life') and responsive to the musical values."
b) 2000: "Bricusse can sometimes do capable, neatly turned work (as in 'A New Life,' his best here), yet many of his lyrics are so clumsy, predictable and just plain awful they make one wince."
Gee, Evans, we're glad to see the New York critics didn't influence you.
And hey, at least he has stuck to his guns when it comes to "A New Life."
"For the first time in our 27-year history," an editor's note in the newest Texas Monthly says, "a single cover image couldn't begin to tell the story." So the magazine printed four different covers, kind of like TV Guide does with Pokémon or pro wrestling or Party of Five.
The earthshaking story that could not be contained on just one cover? "Texas Music: The Stars! The Hits! The History!" Some people got a cover with Bob Wills, and some got Stevie Ray Vaughan, Selena or one of the Dixie Chicks, which just about covers every demographic imaginable. (Hey, wait: no Butthole Surfers?)
Just looking back on recent Texas Monthly covers, we wonder how they could possibly have been limited to only a single image. How about "The Best of Small Town Texas" in March 1999, wonderfully timed to coincide with the trial in Jasper for the dragging death of James Byrd? How about November's "Holy Guacamole: The Joy of Mex," which promised "75 Mexican restaurants that will leave your taste buds begging for more"? (Not to be confused with the October 1997 "Barbecue!: The 50 Best Barbecue Joints in Texas" cover, by the way.)
How about October's "Three Cheers for High School Football"? Surely there was a marketing opportunity lost.
No, it wasn't until the unexplored, virgin territory of "Texas Music" came along that editors decided "this was the perfect time," according to the note: " 'We would have been proud to have a cover with any of these faces,' [interim art director Nancy] McMillen says. Four was picture perfect."
Sending a Message
How are the closed-door negotiations going between the Houston Rockets and the city over plans to build a new arena? Apparently not too well, from the Rockets' viewpoint.
That has to be the reason for the Chronicle's front-page story April 26 headlined "Rockets Listen to Lure of Louisville, Vegas," which once again reported the not-exactly-new "news" that the Rockets are looking at other cities if they can't get an arena deal.
"Sources," identified no further by the Chron, gave the startling non-scoop to the paper, which has eagerly boosted the arena proposition.
Our favorite quote came from a Louisville alderman, who said that while his city may be small, "There are a lot more people around Louisville than there are living around San Antonio." (Sellersburg is just ten miles north!) Apparently those folk don't have TVs, because the San Antonio TV market is 37th-largest in the nation, with 685,000 homes, while Louisville is 48th, with 577,000.
KILT-AM's Rich Lord and Charlie Pallilo are the gold standard when it comes to Houston sports-talk radio, but they stumbled badly April 25.
The two got off on this year's homer barrage in baseball and pinned part of the blame on the chemically enhanced physiques of today's sluggers. Guys like Sammy Sosa were almost runts when they came in the league, they huffed, and look at them now. No way they transformed themselves without chemicals, legal and possibly otherwise.
Minutes later they snagged a live interview with Sosa at Enron Field. "Obviously the body you have now is different than the one you came up with," Lord asked.
"It just comes from working hard in the weight room," Sosa said. "That's the only way to do it."
"Absolutely," Lord replied.
The relentless inquisitors quickly moved on, to the subject of Sosa's infectious "joy in playing the game."
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